ATLANTA – The departure of Curtis Lofton to the Saints earlier this offseason left a void at the middle linebacker position for the Atlanta Falcons. It was a hole that was supposed to have been filled by second-year linebacker, Akeem Dent.
The Falcons brought in Lofa Tatupu to push Dent in practices to prepare him for the season—to compete on a level playing field for the starting role. With Tatupu now out for the season, Atlanta was already running thin at middle linebacker. After Dent’s departure from the first preseason game with the Ravens because of a head injury, the Falcons are running even thinner.
After a collision on a punt return in the first quarter, Dent stayed down for a while but eventually walked off the field under his own power. Head coach Mike Smith did not have official word during the postgame press conference as to the extent of Dent’s injury, or even exactly what it was. But he did say that he never thought twice about having Dent in the game on special teams.
“He’s a core special teams player and he’s our biggest linebacker,” said Smith. “He’s going to have to play some special teams throughout the season when you are a base player you are playing about 45 percent of the snaps. No regrets whatsoever.
“Can’t tell you about the other injury stuff because I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with the physician, the trainer.”
If the injury was a concussion it means that Dent must past multiple league mandated tests before returning to practice. Those tests could mean Dent misses valuable time. Especially because of just how little NFL experience he has.
Losing Dent could be a big blow to the Falcons, who are now down to veteran Mike Peterson as the next healthy middle linebacker on the depth chart. Not only are the Falcons not as strong with Peterson with the first team, Dent will miss out—if he misses time at all—on very valuable reps in practice, reps he needs to gain experience.
If Dent misses significant time, the Falcons may need to look into singing another middle linebacker to help until Dent returns.